Catholic Exchange: Christ’s Call to Love & Communion in an Age of Scandal

As we begin a New Year with the Church embroiled in ever deepening scandal, we all must ask ourselves: What can I do in response? What can I do in the face of so much evil, incompetence, injustice, and lack of charity?

The solutions are difficult and will take decades — if not centuries — to take hold so that renewal can take place. The saints God will raise up in response to the rot within the Church will come forward, but in His time. What are we to do now, in this age, in response to the seemingly endless array of scandals?

The answer is given to us by Our Lord Himself when He tells us that “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).” This does, first and foremost, mean martyrdom or truly dying for those we love as Our Lord did. But for most of us, it means dying to self daily in our relationships with the people God puts in our path. The answer is fleshed out throughout Sacred Scripture and expounded upon by St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. John.

We now live as brothers and sisters in Christ bound together in Baptism strengthened through the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity. The greatest of these being charity. This means that we are called to live in authentic, deep, abiding charity in communion with one another. We are brothers and sisters in Christ whose love is meant to be so great in Him that we are willing to die for one another bodily or through sacrificing for one another in our daily lives.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: Finding Laughter and Joy Amidst Suffering

I will continue my series on the Beatitudes and the work of Servais Pinckaers next week. My husband was in the hospital for 2.5 days with a partially collapsed lung, so I was unable to delve deeper into the Beatitudes. Since I spent more time in the hospital with my husband this week, I thought the topic of laughter in relation to suffering would be a good choice. It is something my husband and I rely on to get through our struggles with his illness.

As many regular readers know, my husband has been diagnosed with the rare auto-immune disease Wegener’s Granulomatosis (GPA). We have been working with a Rheumatologist to get it into remission. We are now in the stage of testing the waters to see if his first round of infusion antibody treatment has put the disease into remission for however long we can keep it there. Things seemed to be going more smoothly until Sunday night when he started coughing up a bit of blood again and developed intense pain when he would lie down on his back. We ended up in the Emergency Room where the ER doctor quickly discovered a pneumothorax (air pocket) and partial collapsed lung. My husband was admitted to the hospital and a chest tube placed in his lung.

Spiritual growth through laughter

Throughout our experiences over the last few months—besides our dependence on Christ through prayer, daily Mass, Adoration, etc.—my husband and I have found that laughter is a critical aspect of our journey with suffering. On this side of eternity, suffering is largely mystery. My husband and I do not get to know why he has this disease. Instead, we have to learn to trust God as we walk this path He has given to us. Suffering is a nasty business. It comes with deep physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual pain. It cuts to the very core of our being. It is a great equalizer. This we all know from our experiences of suffering, but if we focus solely on our pain and never add levity to the situation, we run the risk of falling into despair.

My husband repeatedly jokes around with hospital staff and plays jokes on his nurses whenever he is in the hospital. He possesses a great capacity for mirth and merriment even in the most trying of times. Our ER doctor this week had the same dry—and somewhat disturbing and macabre—sense of humor that my husband and I both possess. Through laughing about a situation that we cannot control, my husband and I are able to embrace each new trip to the hospital. We then draw the hospital staff into our acceptance of the Cross we have been given by our willingness to step into joy while suffering. It’s not easy, and we have our moments, but we are much more able to handle each new trip to the hospital the more we can laugh at the circumstances we cannot change or control.

I think it’s clear that my husband and I were put together partly because we both use laughter to respond to stress and pain. It is also a way that we are able to grow spiritually. It is quite a feat to see my husband laughing and joking with the medical staff who are caring for him while he has a chest tube in his right lung. He even joked around with the ER doctor who had to cut a hole in his chest and shove a tube into his lung, and he can laugh with the doctors while they try to figure out how to treat a man who has a disease most of them have never seen (some have never even heard of it), or have only seen once or twice in their entire time practicing medicine.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.


Why Moms Need Other Moms


I think there is an undercurrent in our society that convinces moms that we should be able to do it all, on our own.  We need to be supermom; standing strong and taking care of our families, communities, and jobs.  Society tells us that we should not need help outside of our homes.  To ask for help is to be weak.  And we all know that weakness is the worst thing we can be in a society that worships the strong.  We are not supposed to admit that we don’t have it all together.

Gone are the days, at least in our culture, of doing community laundry at the river, or collecting water from the town well.  These were tasks that women gathered together for in order to share the workload, and quite frankly, to talk, socialize, and commune.  Women are social beings and instinctively know that we are not supposed to go it alone. Motherhood and marriage are tough.  That is why they are paths to sainthood.

The amount of socializing that we like to do definitely depends on our temperament and personality.  Some of us are introverts, which means that we like to visit with others in a limited amount of time, but we still need that interaction.  Some women are more extrovert oriented and really enjoy the company of others.  No matter our personality, we need guidance and support from other women, especially other moms.  Why do you think that Pinterest and Facebook are so popular?  It is a way for women who are isolated from everyone else as they stay home with their children throughout the day, to connect with other people.  It is a place to feel validated or to unload.  Social media attempts to alleviate the enclosure of our post-modern lives, but they are not enough.  We need actual contact with people that does not come through our computer screens.

Today I went to my first Mom’s Meet Up at my parish.  I had seen them advertised, but I had missed them for one reason or another in the past.  One of the reasons being that I am awkward around new people.  I am terrible at small talk.  With me you can just skip over the pleasantries and jump right into current affairs, politics, theology, or if you prefer, diapers and childrearing.  I really dislike the conversation that is predicated upon “so what do you do for a living”.  I am a wife and a mom.  Next topic.  I force my way through small talk, since I have gathered that is a necessary form of social interaction, but on the inside I am wondering when we will either find something we have in common or move onto something of more substance. Patience is not my middle name.  More than anything, I just hate feeling awkward.

I decided that it was time to check out the Mom’s group.  I already knew some of the ladies involved, and they are very nice women.  They also have children closer to my daughter’s age, which most of my friends do not.  Most of my friends have children who are at least 7 years old all the way up to adulthood.  So, this morning I packed Michaela up and decided to do a little penance by taking my toddler to daily Mass.  If there is one thing that should free souls from Purgatory it is dealing with a toddler during Mass.  What?! The consecration is coming up.  That is the perfect time to yell out “hello” to Father.  Let’s play peek-a-boo with mommy’s veil.  She didn’t really need it anyway, right?  We made it through Mass without any meltdowns.  Sure Rosaries and hymnals were scattered across the floor.  It’s an obstacle course for people to maneuver through on their way up to receive the Eucharist.  Daily Mass is done in our small Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  I digress.  Clearly I need to write about toddlers and Mass at a later date.

After Mass, we went to the Mom’s group that was meeting in the parish nursery.  That way our kids can play while we exchange war stories, I mean, how our lives are going.  An amazing thing happened when I arrived.  I was introduced to the women who I did not know and then we went straight into talking about our lives.  No small talk or awkward chit chat.  It was like I already knew the secret handshake by the sheer act of being a mom.  At first I was so amazed that I did not know how to react.  Am I supposed to already talk about my life?  You mean I don’t have to justify my life choices in this social setting?  Did somebody already mention how awful Obamacare is?  You mean I can talk about my HCG reactions without getting strange looks?  These women were comfortably talking about their husbands, kids, medical care, raising a family, the government shutdown, etc.  No pretenses, no fear of social rejection.  I had found the 21st Century well where women gather to talk.

There is this unspoken fear among mothers that we are being judged by other mothers.  What?! You sculpted the David in your child’s PB&J?!  I was lucky to find a slice of bread and peanut butter to put together. Your kids sit still during Mass with their hands neatly folded on their laps? My daughter threw Cheerios at the couple sitting in front of us and she was the one singing something that sounds like a cross between English, Latin, and a cow mooing during the Agnus Dei. Okay, so this might be a bit exaggerated.  She sounds more like a barking dog.

Here’s the thing, fellow moms, we need to stop worrying about judging each other and just help each other.  Stay-at-home moms like me who have infants or toddlers face a rather daunting task of raising their child alone all day.  My husband works all day and I do not see most of my friends during the day because they either work or homeschool their children who are much older than Michaela.  Moms need to get out of the house.  We need a chance to unload.  We need to be able to admit that we are exhausted and do not have it together.  We need to encourage one another on the path.  Christian community is about lifting each other up.  So let’s stop worrying about other parents judging our choices.  Absolutely no one can mother our children better than we can.  That is why God gave us the child or children he gave us.  He knew that we were the best for them and they are the best for us.  So sign off of Facebook or Pinterest or whatever other social media you are using to combat your loneliness and isolation, and head out to your parish to meet other moms.  If there is not a group in your church, then start one.  Also, take your kid to the library to meet other moms there.  We are not meant to be cooped up in our houses alone with our children all day.  This is the secret that the women before us understood so well.